Fox, Vicente (Mexico)
Representing the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN; National Action Party), Vicente Fox Quesada was elected president in July 2000 ending 71 years of hegemonic rule by the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI; Institutional Revolutionary Party). He left office in Nov. 2006.
Fox was born on 2 July 1942 in Mexico City to an Irish father and a Spanish mother, but grew up in the state of Guanajuato. From a wealthy agricultural family, he studied business at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City and then at Harvard University in the USA. In 1964 he was employed by Coca-Cola, climbing the ranks to become the company’s youngest president for Mexico and Central America.
His political career began in 1987 when he was introduced to the PAN by presidential candidate Manuel J. Clouthier. The following year Fox was elected to congress where he concentrated on agricultural policy. Three years later, hoping to represent his home province of Guanajuato, he stood unsuccessfully in the regional elections, losing out to the PRI candidate, Ramón Aguirre, who claimed 51% of votes against Fox’s 39%. Fox accused the government of fraud and protested until the government accepted the PAN victory. Ramón Aguirre was forced to stand down and a PAN representative took his place. Fox was elected at his second attempt in 1995.
Although short on political experience, Fox quickly climbed the ranks of the PAN, establishing a support network called ‘Amigos de Fox’ (Friends of Fox). In preparation for the 2000 presidential elections the Alianza por el Cambio (Alliance for Change) was formed, comprising the PAN and the small Partido Verde Ecologista de México (PVEM; Ecologist Green Party of Mexico). Fox was nominated the coalition’s presidential candidate for the 2000 election. His rival was the PRI candidate Francisco Labastida. Fox’s manifesto was based on security, justice, ending corruption and promoting economic growth.
Fox won the 2000 presidential elections with 42.5% of votes against Labastida’s 36.1%. His victory ended 71 years of continuous rule by the PRI, often maintained by questionable means, although it was the reforms of outgoing PRI president Ernesto Zedillo that created the environment for democratic elections. On election Fox outlined plans to promote a market-led economy, although he stopped short of privatizing the state oil company Pemex (Petróleos Mexicanos) claiming he was simply looking to attract foreign investment. He also pledged to solve the conflict with the rebel Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN; Zapatista Army of Liberation), formed to promote the rights of the indigenous population, especially in the southern Chiapas region. Peace talks under former president Ernesto Zedillo had stalled in 1996. Fox outlined a peace accord that would give the indigenous population more autonomy, and allow recognition of their culture, traditions and language. There were also moves to withdraw the army from the region and release imprisoned Zapatistas. In April 2001 Congress approved legislation granting indigenous communities the right to self-determination. However, despite these measures, the conflict is not yet fully resolved.
Other promised reforms in the policy agenda during Fox’s tenure—such as fiscal and energy reform, tackling crime and corruption, and raising educational standards—failed to materialize. This reflected the president’s lack of a congressional majority, the PAN having lost a quarter of its parliamentary seats in the July 2003 legislative elections. Economically, the slowdown in the early period of Fox’s term—largely a consequence of economic difficulties suffered by the USA which takes about 90% of Mexican exports—improved in the latter half of his tenure. This was largely as a result of Mexico’s standing as a major oil producer and high oil prices on the world market.
On an international level, Fox sought to promote relations with the USA. In Jan. 2001 he outlined plans to create a ‘NAFTA Plus’. extending the current trade pact with North America to include more Latin American countries. He also pushed for talks with the US on illegal migration from Mexico to the US and made attempts to stimulate trade with Europe.
He was not eligible to stand for re-election in the presidential elections scheduled for July 2006 and officially left office on 30 Nov. 2006.